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Jan 20, 5:36 PM EST

Business Highlights


China's growth in 2016 slumps as Trump trade struggle looms

BEIJING (AP) - China's economic growth sank to a three-decade low in 2016 as its struggling exporters brace for a possible trade battle with President-elect Donald Trump.

Growth in the quarter ending in December ticked up to 6.8 percent over 2015, supported by government spending and a real estate boom, a gain from the previous quarter's 6.7 percent, government data showed Friday. Still, for the full year, growth came in at a lackluster 6.7 percent, down from 6.9 percent in 2015 and the weakest since 1990's 3.9 percent.

That temporary upturn is unlikely to last, economists said.


Report: 'Net neutrality' foe Ajit Pai is new FCC head

NEW YORK (AP) - President Donald Trump has reportedly picked a fierce critic of the Obama-era "net neutrality" rules to be chief regulator of the nation's airwaves and internet connections.

Citing unidentified people, Bloomberg and Politico both reported Friday that the next chairman of the Federal Communications Commission will be Ajit Pai, an old hand at the agency. Pai's chief of staff, Matthew Berry, declined to comment. FCC spokesmen did not immediately reply to emails.

Pai is one of the two Republican commissioners on a 5-member panel that regulates the country's communications infrastructure, including TV, phone and internet service.


Stocks edge higher, snapping a 5-day losing streak for Dow

Materials companies led U.S. stocks modestly higher Friday, recouping much of the market's loss from a day earlier and snapping a 5-day losing streak for the Dow Jones industrial average.

Another crop of encouraging company earnings news also helped lift the market, but investors were mostly focused on events in Washington as Donald Trump was sworn in as the 45th president of the United States.

The major stock indexes pulled back slightly as Trump delivered remarks after taking the oath of office. Among topics of particular interest to Wall Street, the speech touched on trade and the Trump administration's intention of protecting the U.S. from "the ravages of other countries making our products, stealing our companies, and destroying our jobs."


Hawaii bill compels mediation for Zuckerberg-type land deals

HONOLULU (AP) - A Hawaii lawmaker plans to introduce legislation that could force Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg into mediation before he is allowed to buy real estate on Kauai island.

Zuckerberg last month filed lawsuits to identify owners of 14 parcels interspersed with his 700-acre spread so he could pay them and buy the land.

State Rep. Kaniela Ing said Friday says Hawaii's sugar barons employed laws Zuckerberg is using to take land from Native Hawaiians and says Zuckerberg is "completing the theft." If passed, Ing's bill would likely take effect July 1.


Ford expects $2B net income drop due to pension change

DEARBORN, Mich. (AP) - Ford says that a change in the way it values pension obligations will cut its 2016 net income by $2 billion.

Ford will record a pretax pension charge of about $3 billion for the year. It says the loss is a special item so it won't affect adjusted pretax profit. Ford still expects to meet guidance of about $10.2 billion in adjusted pretax profit for last year.

Ford Motor Co. reports fourth-quarter and full-year earnings on Thursday.


Las Vegas Sands paying $7M to settle corrupt practices probe

LAS VEGAS (AP) - Las Vegas Sands Corp. will pay almost $7 million to U.S. authorities to end a more than five-year corrupt practices investigation, company and federal officials said Thursday.

With the agreement, the company resolved twin probes over more than $60 million paid to an unnamed agent retained in 2006 to acquire a Chinese basketball team, plus other business dealings that include a Beijing real estate deal to promote casinos on the Cotai Strip of Macao.

The company wasn't charged with a crime and did not admit guilt in either case.


Apple depicts Qualcomm as a shady monopolist in $1B lawsuit

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) - Apple is suing mobile chip maker Qualcomm for $1 billion in a patent fight pitting the iPhone maker against one of its major suppliers.

The complaint filed Friday in a San Diego federal court depicts Qualcomm as a monopolist abusing its power in a key segment of the mobile chip market to extort royalties for iPhone innovations that have nothing to do with Qualcomm's technology.

Apple says it has been cooperating with government regulators who have been investigating Qualcomm's business practices, prompting Qualcomm to retaliate by withholding about $1 billion in scheduled payments.


Mars investigating Skittles said to be intended for cattle

NEW YORK (AP) - Mars Inc. says it doesn't know why Skittles found on a rural Wisconsin highway might have been headed to become cattle feed.

The case began when a Wisconsin sheriff posted on Facebook this week that "hundreds of thousands of Skittles" had been found spilled on a highway. Later, he updated the post to say the candy had fallen off a truck on its way to be cattle feed.

A variety of food byproducts are commonly used for animal feed, and Skittles maker Mars says it has procedures for discarding foods for that purpose. However, the company says the Skittles in question came from a factory that doesn't sell unused products for animal feed.


Court: Indian lending companies subject to federal probe

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) - A federal appeals court says lending companies operated by Native American tribes are subject to investigation by a government regulator.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco on Friday rejected a claim by three tribes that their lending companies were protected by tribal sovereignty from investigation by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. At issue were for-profit lending companies created by three tribes - the Chippewa Cree, Tunica Biloxi and Otoe Missouria.

The Chippewa Cree's lending company, Plain Green, has been accused of predatory loan practices - a claim that company officials deny.


Prosecutor: 'Dance Mom' should be imprisoned for fraud

PITTSBURGH (AP) - A prosecutor on Friday urged a federal judge to sentence "Dance Moms" star Abby Lee Miller to prison instead of probation for bankruptcy fraud.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Gregory Melucci argued that the reality TV show star tried to avoid repaying hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt by hiding about $775,000 in income from a bankruptcy court. Miller's attorneys will call witnesses when the hearing continues Feb. 24, after which she'll be sentenced. Miller and her attorneys said they won't comment until then.


The Dow Jones industrial average rose 94.85 points, or 0.5 percent, to close at 19,827.25. The Standard & Poor's 500 index gained 7.62 points, or 0.3 percent, to 2,271.31. The Nasdaq composite index added 15.25 points, or 0.3 percent, to 5,555.33.

Benchmark U.S. crude rose $1.05, or 2 percent, to close at $52.42 a barrel in New York. Brent crude, used to price international oils, added $1.33, or 2.5 percent, to close at $55.49 a barrel in London. In other energy trading, wholesale gasoline gained 3 cents to $1.57 a gallon and heating oil rose 3 cents to $1.65 a gallon. Natural gas slid 16 cents, or 4.9 percent, to $3.20 per 1,000 cubic feet.

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